Final two cuts are made

Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- NBA rookie Kevin Durant and hard-working forward Nick Collison were cut Monday night to get Team USA’s roster to 12 players for the start of the FIBA Americas Championship.

For Team USA, which will begin round-robin play Wednesday night against Venezuela at the Thomas & Mack Center, the moves were not much of a surprise when considering Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s perimeter dominated lineup.

With Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony stepping up as the main three players for Team USA, skillful outside shooters such as Michael Redd and Mike Miller will have premium roles in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Durant, selected No. 2 overall by Seattle in this year’s draft, had a solid camp but his perimeter-based game was offset by the play of Bryant, James and Anthony.


Collison, who has played on eight USA basketball teams, also was impressive but with Team USA keeping a limited number of big men (Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler) he was the odd man out.

“It sounds trite to say that it was a tough decision but in reality it was that and more because all 14 were deserving of being on the roster. . . . " Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a prepared statement.

Added Krzyzewski: “With Kevin [Durant], one year in college and 18 years old, he’s made giant progress and he’s going to be one of the faces of the NBA and USA Basketball who will be considered next year because 10 months from now he’s only going to get better,” Krzyzewski said.

“Nick [Collison] wasn’t involved from the very beginning so to be this close to making it after being here for about a week shows what a tremendous job he did.”

Forward Tayshaun Prince, said being released from Team USA is much different than trying out for a high school team.

“Most of the people on this team have not been in that position before,” Prince said. “This is probably the first time that they’ve really been in this position. But when you look at this situation, you really can’t be disappointed because you know the guy next to you is just as good. So you know what you are dealing with as opposed to high school, where a move may be made and you question the decision.”

Stoudemire, who has been involved with Team USA since 2004, said each year it is going to get harder to make the roster.

“Every year there’s going to be guys who play as hard as they can but don’t make it even though they were good enough to make it,” Stoudemire said.

“I know with the young guys like myself, Carmelo and LeBron, we love to play the game of basketball. We’ve been playing together since high school and we’re excited about representing the U.S.”

Point guard Jason Kidd, who is 37-2 representing the USA in international competition when counting his collegiate days at California, said the 2000 Olympic team (which won a gold medal in Australia) was the best national team that he played with.

“We were big then,” Kidd said about the USA team that defeated France in the championship game. “We had Alonzo [Mourning] and Kevin Garnett and a lot of other players with size.”

According to Kidd, if the 2003 team -- which included Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Jermaine O’Neal and Tracy McGrady -- had remained intact, “we would have won the gold in the 2004 Olympics.”

“We approached everything with one goal and that was to qualify. . . . It’s an honor to represent your country, but it’s been a while since all of the nation’s top players played together internationally,” Kidd said.



Team USA roster

The 12-man roster that will represent the United States at the FIBA Americas Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.

*--* PLAYERS POS HT WT NBA TEAM Carmelo Anthony F 6-8 230 Denver Nuggets Chauncey Billups G 6-3 202 Detroit Pistons KOBE BRYANT G 6-6 220 LAKERS Tyson Chandler C 7-1 225 New Orleans Hornets Dwight Howard F/C 6-11 265 Orlando Magic LeBron James F 6-8 240 Cleveland Cavaliers Jason Kidd G 6-4 212 New Jersey Nets Mike Miller G 6-8 218 Memphis Grizzlies Tayshaun Prince F 6-9 205 Detroit Pistons Michael Redd G 6-6 215 Milwaukee Bucks Amare Stoudemire C 6-10 240 Phoenix Suns Deron Williams G 6-3 205 Utah Jazz *--*